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Governor signs deca ban bill into law

State will require phase-out of the flame retardant in household items

June 14, 2007

AUGUSTA – Governor Baldacci signed into law on Thursday a bill that will phase out the use of a potentially dangerous flame retardant from Maine households. The bill, sponsored by House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, D-North Haven, assed in the House and Senate with broad bipartisan support late in May.

The legislation will ban the use of deca-BDE in mattresses and furniture on January 1, 2008 and phase out its use in televisions and other plastic-cased electronics by January 1, 2010.

Researchers have found evidence that deca leaches off television sets and furniture and onto household dust, and is then inhaled or ingested. Traces of the chemical have been found in breast milk, and scientists believe that the substance causes slower brain development in children.

“The chemical industry has spent literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in Maine and other states trying to kill this important health and environmental initiative,” said Pingree. “It’s good to see that big businesses from out of state can’t talk Maine people out of supporting good legislation.”

A series of tests performed on mice pups by the Maine CDC and by researchers in Sweden showed that exposure to deca resulted in decreased motor skills, including reflexes and physical strength after a single exposure.

Firefighter groups across the state have firmly endorsed the measure, saying that safer and equally effective alternatives are available. Representatives from the Professional Firefighters of Maine say that deca poses a real cardiovascular and cardiopulmonary threat to the health of firefighters during and long after they leave the scene of the fire, because it absorbs into their protective uniforms, which are then brought back to the fire station – and sometimes their homes.

Pingree’s bill also requires the DEP to continue its reporting process on the safety of existing flame retardants, and gives the Department authority along with the State Fire Marshal and the Maine Center for Disease Control in determining which products should be subject to a ban in the future. That amendment was added to the bill by the Natural Resources Committee in a work session at the end of April, at which point the committee supported the measure by a 10-3 vote.

The bill has the strong support of the Professional Firefighters of Maine, the Maine Fire Chiefs, the state Fire Marshall and the Maine Fire Protection Services Commission, the Natural Resource Council of Maine, the Environmental Health Strategy Center, the Maine chapters of the American Lung Association Academy of Pediatrics and a host of more than 30 environmental and health advocates statewide.

Deca is the only remaining PBDE category flame retardant that is still used in household materials in the United States. The Maine Legislature banned two other PBDEs – octa and penta-BDE – in 2004, under legislation also sponsored by Pingree. The older category of flame retardants have proven to cause harm to humans and the environment, as scientific research has found traces of the deca chemical in animals and human breast milk, and tied its presence to slower development in children.

The 2004 bill also required a series of studies of deca over the next three years to determine if it should also be eliminated if safer alternatives were available. The most recent report in 2007 showed conclusive evidence that deca posed a threat to the health of humans and animals and should be replaced. Research also showed that deca breaks down over time into the more dangerous - and already-banned - octa-BDE and penta-BDE.

Only representatives from the out-of-state chemical industry lobbied against the bill during the legislative process. No electronic manufacturers who use the product sent spokespeople to oppose the bill, and many of them have already started to move away from the controversial product.

“For me, this is a lot like banning lead paint when we knew that latex paint was available,” said Rep. Ted Koffman, D-Bar Harbor, chairman of the Natural Resources Committee.

Contact:

Travis Kennedy, Communications Director, 287-1433


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